Chapter 4. Accommodation
The importance of housing and accommodation is amplified with ageing. According to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), the housing situation of the aged is the culmination of a lifetime of opportunities and obstacles.1
Legal issues for older people relating to accommodation and housing reflect the distinct nature of accommodation and housing options that are prevalent amongst older people. Unlike younger people, older people are often more restricted in their accommodation options, either due to physical incapacity, cost, need for caring arrangements, or widowhood. In addition, while an older person’s housing may meet their accommodation needs at a particular point in time, these needs can change dramatically with the ageing process.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, older people place a high value on their home environment, as they are less likely to be in full-time employment, and consequently more likely to spend more time in their home, and in their immediate neighbourhood, than at any other period in their lives.2 In 1996 in NSW:
- Ninety-three per cent of older people (i.e. over the age of 65) lived in private dwellings. Of these, 70 per cent lived in separate houses, 14 per cent in flats and eight per cent in semi-detached dwellings. Five per cent of older people lived in private dwellings located within retirement villages.
- Seven per cent of older people lived in non-private dwellings, the vast majority of whom (95 per cent) were in care accommodation, accommodation for the aged or nursing homes. However, for people aged 85 and over, 34 per cent lived in non-private dwellings, due to higher numbers of people in that age group living in nursing homes and aged care accommodation.
- While less than two per cent of the total population lived in non-private dwellings, older people accounted for around half of these.
- From the age of 50, the proportion of people living in a separate house decreases with age, with the decreases becoming more marked from the age of 65. Seventy-seven per cent of those aged 65–74 years lived in a separate house. For people aged 85 years and over, this decreased to 45 per cent.
- Seventy-nine per cent of older people lived in homes that were fully owned by a member of the household, with a further five per cent living in homes where mortgage payments were still being made. That is 84 per cent of older people lived in homes which were owned or mortgaged as compared with 69 per cent of younger age groups.
- Twelve per cent of older people rented their accommodation. Almost half of these were public housing tenants. This compares with 29 per cent of 15–64 year olds (and less than a quarter were public housing tenants).
- Twenty-one per cent of older people had moved in the previous five years. Approximately two-thirds of older people living in non-private dwellings had moved in the previous five years.3
Given the distinct housing issues confronting older people, such people face a range of legal issues relating to accommodation which are both common to other age groups, and also unique to their particular situations. Legal issues relating to the following accommodation types, in particular, will be considered:
- nursing homes and residential aged care facilities
- retirement villages
- home units under Strata Title
- public housing tenancy
- private tenancy
- home ownership
- boarding house accommodation
- residential parks accommodation.